Monthly Archive: December 2015

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Quinte News – MPP Rinaldi on 2015

Sun, Dec 27th, ’15 – 7:10 am MPP Lou Rinaldi (Photo: Sean McIntosh/Quinte News) Healthcare is a work in progress are the words of Northumberland Quinte West MPP Lou Rinaldi when he looks back on 2015. Rinaldi says its been a continuious work in progress when it comes to making the healthcare system more coehesive and ensure everyone has the services they need. lou R look back [1] Rinaldi also touts finished infrastructure projects locally and across the province along with the signing off of selling beer in grocery stores. References ^ lou R look back (www.quintenews.com)

Peace talks offer the perfect cover for those hell-bent on waging war

Richard Spencer Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30 TOPSHOT – Foreign Ministers vote during a UN Security Council meeting on Syria at the United Nations in New York on December 18, 2015. The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a peace process to end the nearly five-year war in Syria. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARYTIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images Politicians who have to sell themselves to their electorates see peace talks as an inherently good thing. Since most people prefer peace to war, national leaders will promote any approach that makes it look as if they are doing their bit. Share Go To Those on the ground may beg to differ. Since the latest round of talks to end the war in Syria began in Vienna on November 14, there has been a marked increase in its murderous participants’ activities. Hundreds of civilians have been killed by Russian air strikes – 35 on a single day last week. Dozens of schools and hospitals have been hit. A Syrian doctor last week told how his clinic was now forced to operate entirely underground. He said, without a trace of irony, that this was not only because there was more bombing, but because Russian missiles appeared to be more accurate than regime ones, and so hit medical facilities more regularly. This period has also seen renewed regime offensives in Aleppo and in north-eastern Damascus, where a particularly heavy bombardment last Sunday claimed at least 49 lives in the suburb of Douma, including a headmaster and several of his pupils. Nor is it only the regime and its allies that have intensified their activities: Britain, since Vienna, has become the latest of the many countries – almost too many to count – to conduct air strikes in Syria. Saudi Arabia has announced a new coalition of Sunni Muslim nations to fight for their co-religionists’ corner, its foreign minister saying he does not rule out Saudi “boots on the ground”. Over the border in south-east Turkey, scores have died in the past four days alone in a “spillover war” between the government and its Kurdish guerrilla adversaries, the PKK. Turkish forces have also been sent into northern Iraq, to stake Ankara’s claim to influence there. The United States, meanwhile, under the cover of international outrage at Russia’s blitz, quietly broadened its definition of a legitimate target to include those providing infrastructure for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). The truckers ferrying oil via its smuggling networks have felt the full force of both US and Russian missiles. If all this were a precursor to ending hostilities, it might be a price worth paying. Unfortunately, we have been here before, and the chances of peace do not seem any different now: the UN resolution on Friday made no mention of the fate of president Bashar al-Assad, and ultimately this is a war that is all about him. From the beginning of the conflict, there have been negotiations and ceasefire announcements. There was the inaugural Friends of Syria gathering in Tunis in January 2012, followed by the Geneva 1 conference in June of that year and a subsequent ceasefire. There was Geneva 2 in January last year. All were heralded portentously as the beginning of the end. In each case, more war resulted. This is no sad coincidence: in a time when even dictatorships need good public relations policies, war-war has to be disguised with jaw-jaw. To cite another over-used aphorism: the Romans said that if you wanted peace, you had to prepare for war. Nowadays, if you want war, you prepare peace talks. Sunday Independent Follow @Independent_ie [1] References ^ Follow @Independent_ie (twitter.com)

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2015: A year in review

In a valley that is often marked by divisions among different communities, 2015 saw the community come together, though not always for joyful reasons. As the year comes to a close, we bring you the top ten stories as calculated using the statistics from the Teton Valley News website. We ve also included a few staff picks since not all stories, no matter how important, are always popular online. 1.) The valley comes together after tragedy: Four men killed in plane crash After Andy Tyson, Rusty Cheney, AJ Linnell and pilot John Short died in a plane crash in central Idaho this April, the outpouring of support across the valley was incredible. Just last week, Erica Linnell, wife of AJ, wrote a letter to the editor describing how the community has reacted in these past months. What you may not know is the depths to which the selfless people of this valley from total strangers to my incredible community of friends responded after my husband was killed. I refer to this as the most f—d up gift AJ could have ever given me. The fact that no other story garnered this much attention from the community shows how much people in the valley cared. 2.) Two elk shot illegally: Fish and Game wants info from public It s still unknown who poached two elk in Teton Valley earlier this year. What is clear is that people here care deeply about the natural world and wildlife. When poachers shot two elk this September, the Idaho Fish and Game Department reached out to the public for help, offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of those who shot the animals. So far no arrests have been made, but people made their thoughts known on the TVN Facebook page with posts like, I hope the losers get busted, and I m so sick of scummy people abusing nature and wildlife. Makes me sick. 3.) Skier killed on Mount Moran Risk is ever-present in backcountry skiing. Last spring saw two skiers die in a wet slide at Mount Moran. Luke Lynch, age 38, of Jackson, Wyoming and Stephen P. Adamson, Jr., age 42, both died from their injuries. They were accompanied by others who survived, including experienced skier and guide Zahan Billimoria. This incident highlighted the unpredictable nature of the mountains and that even the most skilled among us can still fall victim to that uncertainty. 4.) Local wolf pack takes sheep herd As ranchers, Janet and Buol Heslin are no strangers to hard times. A wolf attack this spring, however, certainly drew their attention. It was 100 yards from our house, Heslin said. It was a massacre. A total of 16 sheep nine ewes and seven lambs were killed. A few had been partially eaten, but most of those that had been killed were just left. Readers responded to this story because it is the latest example of the issues at play in the ongoing debate over wolves. Some readers feel that the reintroduction of wolves was necessary and overdue; others feel like the animals put an undue burden on ranchers and farmers. Readers feel strongly on both sides. In fact, in the months since we published this story one woman called the TVN to say she would never read our paper again after we published a notice for a state-run course on wolf trapping. 5.) ISP Trooper survives close call on Pinecreek Pass Being a police officer is a dangerous business. That s not news to veteran Idaho State Police Trooper Dustin Green, but even he was surprised at what happened while he was driving over Pinecreek Pass. I thought I was dead, he said. Green was headed toward Victor, rounding a corner, when a truck pulling a trailer met him going the opposite direction. The trailer was carrying forms for pouring concrete. As the truck drove around the curve, the trailer swung and one of the forms slid off, landing directly in front of Green s cruiser. He slammed into the form and immediately hit his brakes. The panel smashed into his windshield, sending glass ricocheting through the car. That left Green with some cuts to his arms but, however unlikely, he walked away from the wreck. For a second he couldn t believe it. When I walked away from the car I didn t know if I was a spirit or not, he said. His injuries, the blood trickling down his arms, are what let him know that he made it through. I looked down, and realized that spirits don t bleed, he said. The driver of the truck was cited for an infraction for driving with an improperly secured load. Since surviving this close-call, Green was elected to a seat on the Victor City Council. 6.) Driggs man dies after Rexburg Walgreens robbery Even when police are justified in the use of deadly force, that doesn t mean the end results are any less tragic. Darryl Myler, 41, of Driggs, was shot and killed by Rexburg police Jan. 24, 2015 after he attempted to rob a Walgreens Drug Store at gunpoint. Our officers responded and were able to make contact with him right here on Main Street at Key Bank in between the alley. Upon making contact rounds were exchanged, said Sgt. Randy Lewis. He added that as far as he knows, this is the first incident like this that has happened in his 40 years with the Rexburg Police Department. Myler s family commented on the story on Facebook. He made some choices that led him to that place in his life. He will be missed. One never in their wildest dreams thinks something like this would happen to their family, said one family member. The media is not aware or able to report all the facts that let you know that the victim was a real person and has a story that touches many. 7.) Search for missing Wisconsin sisters Megan (age 25), Erin (age 22) and Kelsi Andrews-Sharer (age 16) spent nearly a week lost in the Gros Ventre wilderness before being found by rescuers. The sisters were spotted by a helicopter about seven miles from the trailhead where their car had been found. Teton County, Wyoming Search and Rescue said they were tired, cold and hungry, but otherwise healthy and happy to be on their way out. 8.) Three deputies resign from sheriff s office: County leaders debate cause Why did three deputies resign in the past two months, with a total of six leaving in the last year or so? That is the question raised by our #8 story. Deputies, including chief deputy Kelly Wells, have left the sheriff s office in recent months. Sheriff Tony Liford said the resignations were the result of staff in the prosecutors office. It s taken a long time to get a quality crew that we have and now we re losing them because we have a hostile deputy prosecutor, Liford said. County Commissioner Cindy Riegel said Liford was ultimately responsible for his own department. Because the sheriff is an elected official and department head, who manages his own staff, Riegel said, he is ultimately responsible for fixing this problem. In my opinion, he should be looking internally for solutions rather than externally for blame. Liford said because of the staffing shortage he is having to use his investigators to man patrol cars. The TVN is still looking into this developing story. 9.) Huntsman passes off fireworks to Driggs The annual Celebrate America event that Huntsman Springs hosted in recent years to celebrate the Fourth of July drew 20,000 people in 2013 and nearly 40,000 people in 2014. In March of this year, however, the resort said they would be closing the event to the public and instead donating money to Driggs so the city could host its own celebration. Driggs organized an event in time, though it didn t have the likes of past Celebrate America celebrities such as Lee Greenwood or Glenn Beck, which actually may have come as a relief to some valley residents. 10.) Cicero s Bistro and bakery to offer cozy community hangout If you ve been in the valley for very long, there is a good chance that you ve eaten Sue Cicero s pastries. Now, you know where to find them on a regular basis. Cicero s Bistro and Bakery doesn t just serve coffee and danishes, but also features Italian-style family dinners on Sunday evenings. Honorable mention: Local teen wins world championship If you look on the shelves of a successful middle school athlete, you will find trophies and ribbons. However, you are unlikely to find an award for winning the Mini Bareback Riding World Championship. That is, unless you look on the shelf at 13-year-old Cooper Cooke s house. This winter Cooke won his division at the world championships in Las Vegas. His mother, Jacki, was there. They announced his name, and brought him out to wave at the crowd, and then they whisked him away for interviews, she said. All of a sudden I looked down and I couldn t get to him because he was so mobbed by all the media. His mother wasn t the only one to be impressed by his and the other riders performances. I stopped by the first annual Mini Bareback Riding World Championship today, wrote nine-time world champion cowboy Ty Murray on Facebook. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the mini horses were and how much the kids craved riding them! Useless Pugs Reporting can be a grim business. Writing about crime and controversy week-in and week-out can take a toll. All we can say is, Thank goodness for the Sheriff s Log. Now, that s not to say there are no serious crimes in the Sheriff s Report but sometimes you get blessed with an entry like this: A Driggs woman reported that a man walked into her home early in the morning. He was so drunk he didn t know where he was. He didn t want to leave and the woman couldn t reason with him because he was not making any sense. The woman and her family were able to get him out of the house. Deputies searched the area but could not find him. In an interview the woman said her dog, a pug, was useless and did not even wake up during the whole incident. The Shooting of Jack Yantis We came to this story by one of our sister papers, the Idaho State Journal. While not a local story (it happened in the small town of Council on Hwy 95 north of Boise), it is a story that has captured attention both locally and nationally. On Nov. 1 rancher Jack Yantis was shot by Adams County Sheriff s Deputies. He came to the scene of a crash between a passing motorist and one of his bulls. In interviews with the New York Times and the Idaho Statesman, the Yantis family has said the deputies murdered Yantis. I saw them murder my husband, Donna Yantis said. The family alleged deputies grabbed and shot Yantis as he attempted to put down the injured bull. Since the incident, the local sheriff s office has received multiple death threats and the FBI has begun an investigation.

Pickup crashes into St. Catharines store

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. Niagara regional police say a pickup truck was embedded in a brick wall and a 17-year-old boy is facing charges. Police say the boy who was driving the truck and a 22-year-old male passenger were injured in the collision this morning at a St. Catharines grocery store. Police say officers found the pickup truck embedded the wall and paramedics treated the driver and passenger at the scene before the driver was transported to hospital. The St. Catharines boy faces charges that include operation of a motor vehicle while impaired by a drug, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, possession of cocaine, taking a motor vehicle without consent, and possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon. Police say the 17-year-old is believed to have suffered minor injuries and is to appear in court at a later date. By The Canadian Press

The paultan.org 2015 Top Five cars list

It s time again for our signature final post to sign off the year the paultan.org 2015 Top Five list continues the tone set previously in the 2012 [1] , 2013 [2] and 2014 [3] editions, with the writers each picking five cars that impressed them the most this calendar year. An explanation, if it s the first time you re coming into this one. The five selection cap, which was set when we first ran with this idea, is not because we have anything against the usual 10 as found on most lists my original intent of going with half of that was to encourage the writers to put more thought in the selection process. The brief back when the ball was first rolled was to see which five cars driven in that year ended up having the most impact on each of us, with no consideration of pricing, reliability, resale value and all the things that drive say, a vehicle purchase. In years past, the selections have been varied, and have ably highlighted the individuality that resides in our collective we d like to think this year s outing continues that. Again, some changes to the authors 2015 was when we sadly bid farewell to two sterling writers, Jonathan James Tan and Gregory Sze, but we welcome two new names to this year s edition, as Christopher Aaron and Gerard Lye offer their opinion on the five that stood out for them. Graham Chin and Mohan K. Ramanujam also joined our team this year, but did not drive enough cars to do the necessary. And so, on to the musings here are the individual picks from the team, what each thought were the cars that got them going in some way in 2015. As always, we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did writing it. Have a very Happy New Year, and we ll see you in 2016! GERARD LYE Before joining the paultan.org team, I had a small amount of experience in the motoring journo scene already. Therefore, some of the cars in my list may not be under the paultan.org banner, but nonetheless I m told that they still count. Now that we ve gotten past the introductions, my list of cars are certainly influenced by my penchant for something that makes you feel good behind the wheel first and foremost, followed by the excitement and thrills it manages to deliver. Keep in mind that there isn t a particular ranking to my choices, merely what left a strong impression on me during my time (however brief) with it. 5. Honda HR-V During a time when the compact crossover seemed doomed for an early demise, in came Honda with the HR-V that is sort of like a Swiss army knife of city cars in my eyes, and here s why, practicality. Say what you will about Honda but when it comes to packaging, the HR-V nails every need a city dweller needs. From its Ultra Seats that can be folded to accommodate a potted plant, to its nifty centre console stowage spaces and a bevy of inputs for the multimedia system, there s not a lot of situations where the HR-V can t handle in your daily lives. With a significant amount of bookings already received for the HR-V, I think many Malaysians would share the same sentiment. 4. Volkswagen Golf R (Mk. 7) The Golf GTI is already an established household name when it comes to hot hatches, considered as the yard stick to which others are compared to. The Volkswagen Golf R however, is an all-new playing field altogether. The thing I like most about the Golf R is how much of a sleeper car it is. In terms of looks, there are enough visual cues to differ it from a GTI, but it abstains from conspicuous spoilers, bumper lips, overly flared arches, etc. However, if you ever feel the need to be hasty in it, the car calls upon its 280 PS 2.0 litre TSI, six-speed DSG, 4Motion all-wheel drive and XDS+ e-diff to ensure that you go as fast physics will allow, while fluffing up your driving confidence. 3. Mazda MX-5 I ll admit that I ve always thought as the Mazda MX-5 as a hairdressers car . However, that s because I ve never actually driven one. Not the first-gen NA, nor the NB and NC. This time, with the ND, I managed to get myself behind the wheel of one, and I m delighted to say that my previous perceptions are now totally transformed. My time with the MX-5 was brief, a short drive to a photo shoot site. Upon entering the roadster, it was almost instinctive that I lowered the manual folding roof before setting off. Malaysian heat? Furthest thing from my mind at that time. Mazda s affiliation with the Jinba Ittai philosophy is something that needs to be experienced first-hand. In the MX-5, you feel connected to everything the car does naturally, and the best part is, you don t even need to be at considerably high speeds to be entertained. This approachability combined with the ability to leave you smiling all the time behind the wheel is why I adore this roadster. 2. Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG Where the Volkswagen Golf R on my list was the reserved monster, the entry-level AMG is the polar opposite. Several fins, a large rear spoiler, quad exhaust tailpipes, you ll be able to easily point out a Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG from a regular A-Class, trust me. The boy racer looks extend inside as well, with those prominent AMG sport seats and generous application of red and carbon-fibre accents everywhere. This attack on the visual senses gets even better once you let this thing loose on a track. I had just that opportunity not too long and let me tell you, this thing is an absolute weapon. The grunt from the exhaust on the over-rev is still something that is fresh in my mind, and the acceleration provided by the 2.0 litre AMG four-cylinder engine with 355 hp and 450 Nm beggars belief. Entry-level AMG? I think not. 1. Mazda 2 You may have noticed that hatchbacks are a common sight on my list, and here s another, and for good reason. For me, the Mazda 2 is proof that good things can come in small packages. Mazda s common philosophies Kodo and Jinba Ittai is applied across all its models, and the 2 benefits from this as well. It s eager, spritely and always ready to inject a little joy into your daily drive. And all this is done while you re seated in a cockpit that isn t dreary, but exudes a premium outlook that should be reserved for cars in the upper segments. This amalgamation was more than enough to convince me to lay down some actual money to acquire a Mazda 2 of my own. I will concede that it is not the perfect car but as I ve mentioned at the beginning, what appeals to me most is how the car makes you feel behind the wheel, and in this little Mazda, its good. CHRIS AARON I ve personally been blessed with the opportunity to drive a vast number of models over the last 12 months. But for all that I ve seen and done, I still don t believe for a second that I could tell you which ones were the best that s a beauty I leave to the beholder. For the sake of this article, however, I ll brave listing just the necessary five which I believe qualify for creating top personal experiences this 2015. Generally, I ve come to accept that all cars have their merits, and I prioritise the occasion a car allows for far more importantly than how it drives. With that in mind, you should probably guess by now that you aren t going to find a Perodua Myvi or Honda City in this list. They re amazing products in their rights, but as something to properly get your pulses racing? You see where I m going, so, moving along then. 5. Mercedes-Benz E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid Speaking about occasions, I would probably call the E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid s media drive event [4] a firm all-time favourite, even. Embarking on a drive from KL to Bangkok is no easy feat, made more difficult by the fact that we only had one tank of fuel to do it with. At the time, I was working for a different publication, and was fortunate enough to be paired on the drive with my current colleague Anthony. Needless to say, I couldn t have asked for a better drive partner. We didn t quite win the overall challenge, but did manage to set a day s fuel-consumption record of 4.0 litres per 100 km. Like I said, it was gruesome. But you can bet on neither Anthony nor myself choosing anything but the E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid to get through the 1,500 km journey [5] in the way we did. The car s plainly an awesome package for a cool price. 4. BMW 220i It was a brief encounter over a typical weekend s drive, but hell, the BMW 220i [6] was a hoot. Capturing the essence of driving left behind by the grown up 3 Series now in its F30 form, the 2 Series doesn t need anything more than its 2.0 litre BMW TwinPower engine to dish out the thrills. Being a lot more tricky to get strapped in, I don t normally take to coupe body styles all that well. But once you do, every inch of this BMW wills you to be quick. You can t ask for more from the compact coupe s focused seats, dynamic steering and athletic rear-wheel drive chassis. The 2 Series is an honest premium sports car that makes you feel good, day in, day out. Sure, you could opt for a better bargain somewhere else, but I guarantee you that as a driver, you wouldn t be as fulfilled. 3. Nissan Teana So, here s a car making a comeback from 2014. Listed twice by two different paultan.org authors in 2014 s top five picks of the year [7] , it s my turn to put the humble Nissan Teana [8] on its pedestal this time around as the cream of the D-segment s crop. I know, you could argue that a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry would make better sense for whatever reason, but the former s just a bit too dull to look at and the latter s a bit overpriced if you want all the goodies thrown in. Overall, neither of them offer as good a balance of comfort, space, safety features and presence as the Teana (IMHO). Mazda 6? Handsome and epic to drive, but its lesser space, harsher ride and higher price put us off. I liked the Teana so much, that just a week ago, my wife and I took delivery of the very car you see pictured here a mid-spec 2.0 XL [9] . It s got all the right ingredients for safety, style and comfort, and we ve been all smiles since. Call it what you like, but I don t believe that a better D-segmenter exists out there. 2. Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Yes, I like my Teana, but that doesn t make it the ultimate goal. Bar any financial restrictions, this is the bad boy I d have the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S [10] . Up to no good once again with my current colleague Anthony, we were in Frankfurt, Germany, for this drive. Being there to cover the motor show for my previous publication, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia had kindly arranged two courtesy cars on a blank day for us to tour the country a bit a Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupe, and an E 63 S. Don t get me wrong, the S 63 Coupe is an amazing product. It looks ridiculously handsome, and has all the right stuff to get your juices flowing. The E 63 S, however, wasn t as grand an occasion for sure, but to me, that made it all the more special. An everyday W212 E-Class when you want it to be, the E 63 S can be docile, practical, and is far from showy just the sort of thing I appreciate. However, unleash its mountain of power, and its the sort of car you get up to 300 km/h on the autobahn without much effort. Then there s the noise this beast makes. Good golly. 1. Mercedes-AMG GT S Okay, so it s the third Mercedes-Benz model in my list, but how do you expect me to overlook driving an AMG GT S [11] on a track at the end of any year? I bet you d find that equally challenging too. It was a rare occasion that Mercedes-Benz Malaysia treated us to, and I couldn t be more excited to make the long journey to the Sepang Circuit on a Saturday afternoon. Packed with a 510 PS/650 Nm 4.0 litre biturbo V8, the AMG GT S was also the quickest thing I ve ever driven in my relatively short motoring career. Needless to say, there aren t words to describe the experience. It goes like stink, handles exceptionally well despite having a V8 over its front wheels, and you ll be amazed at how much grip this monster has going in and coming out of a corner at speed. It even transforms to an everyday car just like that. Money no object? This is it, hands down, right now. JONATHAN LEE For me, 2015 was a year that I got to see the world (both figuratively and literally), even more so than last year. Like my colleagues here, I am very grateful to have sampled the vast amount of cars that I have, and this year s list was even more difficult to assemble than the last. These entries run the gamut from a small city car, to a sporty executive sedan, a big seven-seater SUV, a diesel-powered B-segment hatch and a hybrid sports car. As with the others here, there s no real common theme here, and I am not saying that these are the best cars that I have driven, just those that made the biggest impact on my consciousness this year. 5. Kia Picanto 1.2L M/T Yes, it s a trend here quite a few of us have included our own cars into the mix. Apart from the fact that Chris, Gerard and myself bought our new cars this year (Hafriz also bought his Peugeot 208 GTi, but given that the feline hot hatch has already made it to the list two years in a row, it was probably wise not to make it a hat-trick), the unique experience of actually owning the car lets us properly experience its full quirks and merits, some of which do not readily present themselves over a three- or four-day test drive. My rather humble mode of transport is this, the cheerfully-coloured Kia Picanto. Yes, it was Paul Tan s #1 pick in 2013, mostly on the grounds of safety six airbags and electronic stability control are fitted as standard, something that still stands out amongst similarly priced vehicles, Proton Iriz 1.6 Premium notwithstanding. But its inclusion on my list goes a bit further than that. Indeed, it s not the most involving to drive the inert, wooly steering sees to that but there s still something about pushing a zippy city car (an added bonus: mine s a manual) to the limit without actually going over the speed limit that s inherently fun. Not that it has any trouble going over that limit, thanks to the peppy 1.2 litre four-pot that needs a lot of revs, but then feels far more sprightly than its 87 PS output suggests. Not only that, it s refined too, thanks to a smooth, quiet engine and a plush ride that belongs to a segment up. It s telling that despite the insane amount of new metal I get to test overseas, it still brings a smile to my face when I see the Picanto again in the KLIA parking lot, and flog it all the way home. In fact, I drive it so often that I ve racked up over 32,000 km on the odometer just a few days shy of its first birthday. It may be humble, but I absolutely love it to bits. 4. Maserati Ghibli S Q4 Tech showcase drives tend to be a smorgasbord for the average motoring journalist, as you get to drive plenty of new, interesting and pretty serious machinery over the course of the day. The recent ZF Global Press Event 2015 was no exception, with the highlight for enthusiasts being the new Porsche 911 Turbo S. It was a shame, then, that the first hack to get behind the wheel binned it before the rest of us even got a try. Salvation for me came with this Maserati Ghibli S Q4, which came some way to making it up. Of course, it s no 911, but there was something about the Ghibli and its gorgeous low-slung looks that have always piqued my interest, and I ve always wanted to drive one. And I was not disappointed. The Maser felt plenty quick in this top S guise thanks to the 404 hp 3.0 litre V6, working seamlessly with the ZF eight-speed automatic. The taut, nimble chassis and accurate, linear steering also gave it the measure of the twisting German test tarmac, while the Q4 all-wheel drive system gave in massive amounts of grip. But it all pales in comparison to that noise. It may only have six cylinders and twin-turbocharged at that but the masterful tuning of the Bolognese engineers mean that the guttural baritone roar, and the pops and crackles that come with it, sound authentic and just as exotic as the best of them. The BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class may be much more rounded propositions, but if it s theatre you re looking for, then your search ends here. 3. Ford Everest If one of the considerations for the Top Five was meeting the vast expectations set upon the car, the new Ford Everest would be right up there. The Blue Oval made big claims with the Ranger-based SUV in terms of refinement, ride and handling, and while the pick-up was already impressive in that regard (of course, until the NP300 Navara stole the crown), I was still not quite sure how the Everest would actually fare. I need not have worried. Traversing the rough Chiang Rai roads, the Everest didn t possess the same overly-cushy, rock-a-bye-baby ride that is typical of truck-based SUVs instead keeping a firm but compliant control on body movements. We tend to talk about certain trucks and SUVs as having a car-like ride, but this one comes the closest to achieving it. It s the same story with the handling slightly slow steering aside, the Everest was grippy, stable and always in control, something that could not be said of its rivals. Throw in the handsome good looks, tidy interior and the amount of toys that are on offer and it starts to become a rather compelling package. The only potential snag for the soon-to-arrive Everest would be the price we ll need to see if Sime Darby AutoConnexion can price it competitively, but initial estimates suggest a sticker of up to RM240k for the range-topping 3.2L Titanium 4 4. That s certainly very pricey for what is still a truck underneath, but one thing is clear however much it will cost over here, this is still one talented vehicle. 2. Mazda 2 1.5L SkyActiv-D Another diesel car makes it after the BMW 320d GT last year, but they couldn t be more different in character. As with Chris E 300, my first blush with the Mazda 2 1.5L SkyActiv-D was also through a fuel economy challenge, this time spanning 1,041 km from Bangkok to the Kedah border town of Changlun. And as fate would have it, I was paired with now-colleague Gerard, who was then working alongside Chris at the time. The experience of driving out of the capital at rush hour was completely different from the one back in KL, and I got us lost, not once, but twice in the span of half an hour. But even after the resulting mad rush to the first checkpoint ended up with us having the highest average fuel consumption of the competition, shrewd timing and careful driving thereafter enabled us to minimise the penalties, and we came in second with a combined score of 3.7 litres per 100 km. Like Chris, it really was the experience that sealed it for this one. As for the car itself, it was fantastic the punchy 105 PS/250 Nm oil-burner, only sullied by slight turbo lag at low revs, really transformed the car, finally giving the 2 the oomph its nimble, capable chassis was screaming for. Local distributor Bermaz has indicated that a diesel 2 will arrive in showrooms sometime in 2016 you d do well to keep a look out for it. 1. BMW i8 This has got to be the shortest test drive ever I only drove the BMW i8 around the block for no more than five minutes after the boys collected it for the Driven Web Series but it is the one that has seared itself into my mind and I can t get it out. Forget the million ringgit price tag the most shocking thing about the i8 is its brutal power delivery. This thing may be powered by a heavily-boosted 231 hp 1.5 litre turbo three-pot, but the way the 131 hp electric motor at the front fills in the turbo lag makes the car feel naturally-aspirated, such is the instantaneous throttle response. This, combined with the all-wheel drive traction off the line means that the i8 feels fast , much faster than its 362 hp combined power output suggests. There s more too you sit very low, so it feels very special, although the cabin looks and feels way too much like a lowly 1 Series for it to really take the fight to the likes of the Mercedes-AMG GT. But the best thing about the i8 is the incredible sculpted exterior design and those doors that make it feel 10, 20 years ahead of its time. It s a weakness of mine, coming from a product design background Hafriz tends to chide me on this but this time I just don t care. My colleagues may not agree with me they much prefer the consummate ability of the AMG GT or the extrovert character, sensuous styling and downright dirty exhaust note of the Jaguar F-Type R but if I had RM1.2 million to spend on a car, I would go for i8 every single time. Yes, it s complicated, feels (and sounds) a bit synthesised and, to be quite honest, feels low-rent everywhere you look, but the i8 is the one for me. HAFRIZ SHAH Goodbye 2015, and hello 2016. Oh how fast time flies when you re kept busy. A role change this year has seen me pre-dominantly office-bound (so much for preferring to drive cars rather than desks, eh?), but a good year it has been, still. Cars wise, my roster is a little less than stellar (less so than years past, that s for sure), but I stand very firmly on the five I ve ended up with a small hatchback, a sports car, a pick-up truck, an SUV and a coupe. It s all (relatively) down to earth, if I do say so myself. After all, life is not all about absurdly fast exotics, right? No Anthony, it really isn t. 5. Proton Iriz 1.3 MT Yes, my 2014 number one is on my list again, just as I predicted last year. Proton s finest (it is!) left me thoroughly impressed during our Driven Web Series 2015 shoot, where it single-handedly and convincingly beat its competition. Clear as day it was the victor by far and away our easiest verdict of the season. A year on since I first drove it, the Iriz lost none of its charm and dynamic grace. The thoroughly used (and most likely abused) example didn t feel a day old in our hands either, which was initially one of my major worries. Instead, it felt as tight as it should be, and proved to be the most comfortable, most dynamically capable hatch of the day. This is an affordable Proton hatchback that is good to look at, nice to be in and immensely enjoyable to drive. Sure, it s smaller than the Myvi inside, and its ergonomic faults (tiny speedo, huge steering wheel) are hard to forgive, but in this case the positives certainly outweigh the drawbacks. Now if only it didn t have that dreadful CVT as its automatic option. It may have mounted a proper challenge to Perodua had that been the case. For those willing to row your own gears, though, this is an absolute beauty. 4. Mercedes-AMG GT S Sticking to the very essence of this post, the very best car I ve driven this year does not top my list. It s a thoroughbred sports car, designed from the ground up to wow. And it amazed me, of course, but no more than I had expected to be. Had it been butt ugly (and still as capable), it might have ended up higher. Make no mistakes, though, the AMG GT S is objectively the finest machine I ve experienced for a long, long time. Not since the magical 987C Porsche Cayman R have I been so thrilled behind the wheel. To me, this car has it all: sexy and menacing looks, elegant yet audacious image and scary but harnessable peformance. It s one of those cars that, to me personally, look considerably better in the flesh compared to photos. What I initially thought as derivative oh look at me, I m a 911 wannabe styling in flat images turned out to be both original and drop-dead gorgeous in front of my own eyes. I m never trusting photographs again. And the driving experience? It s a full-on attack on all your senses, how intimidating, visceral and involving it is. Out of the three million ringgit sports cars on hand at the time, I was drawn most to the Mercedes, the least to the Jag. Having thoroughly tested them all, the i8 and the F-Type swapped places, but the AMG GT S stayed at the top. Love, as they say, stands the test of time (behind other wheels). 3. Nissan NP300 Navara Let me be honest here I ve never been a fan of pick-up trucks. I think they re crude machines that should be used as workhorses, and not as everyday-use family cars. The T6 Ford Ranger came closest to convincing me otherwise, but didn t quite manage it. For all that s been said of its near car-like driving characteristics, I was far from sold. The NP300 Navara changed all that. Finally, here s a pick-up that could pass off as an MPV in terms of ride long been my biggest issue with trucks. The T6 Ranger was a revelation when it arrived in 2012, but this, I believe, represents the biggest move forward for the class yet. Nevermind the fact that it s not much of a load carrier. Its multi-link rear suspension with coil springs will have the rear deck sag awkwardly under heavy load, but it also transforms the truck s ride qualities to far beyond what its competition can offer. Now this is how you execute a passenger-oriented pick-up truck. For those who intend to use a truck as a truck, there s always the Ranger. Heavy mile-munchers can have the D-Max, while off-road junkies may be better off with the Triton. Urban dwellers, however, should go for the new boy. The new Mother Trucker. The Nissan NP300 Navara. 2. F16 BMW X6 M When you ve driven as many cars for as long as we have, you tend to make learned assumptions even before turning the wheel, be it based on past experiences, credible hearsay and, well, your own general expectations. In years of doing this job, I ve hardly been proven wrong in this regard. Until this thing came along. Clicking the seat belt into place, I had a story crafted in my head, about how the X6 M is insanely fast on the straights, but a bit too heavy to take corners properly. I expected it to be well mannered, but a bit of a blunt weapon on track. Steady and supremely composed, but unexciting. More X than M. Oh but such a fool I was. The big M ate up the Sepang circuit like it was on rails. It was quick alright, exceedingly so, but it also proved magnificently capable of lighting your pants on fire through the bends. The harder I pushed, the harder the M-tuned xDrive system worked, juggling power between the four wheels. The result? Absolute magic. I also happened to drive it after stints on the F82 M4 Coupe and F10 M5 LCI. On the back of the fast but less-than-involving M4 and the lairy drive-it-properly-or-you ll-bin-it M5, the X6 M turned out to be the biggest surprise of the day. All-wheel drive M5? Bring it on. Enthusiasts have nothing to be afraid of. Nothing at all. 1. Harvinder Singh s Toyota 86 MT We had an empty track at our disposal during one of our Driven Web Series 2015 shoots. With the day s work done and the circuit still open, Harve and I decided to have fun with our own cars. So out we went, me in Harve s stock manual 86, and him in my daily drive, a Peugeot 208 GTi. What happened next was telling. While Harve decided to call it quits after two short laps, I carried on, driving like an idiot. Round and round I went, all the while thinking to myself, dammit, I ve bought the wrong car! Thing is, the 86 is far from fast (it really isn t, by anyone s standard), nor is it particularly good looking (it s bland, and the cabin has as much visual flamboyance as that of a Vios). But my God does it handle. The steering and body control is beyond exquisite, and the seating position is as perfect as it gets. Bliss on wheels, that was. My best driving experience of 2015. What it taught me is this: forget about the idea of a one-size-fits-all hot hatch there s no such thing. Go bold or go home. Want a fun car? Get a toy. Get a sports car. For something that you ll want to drive everyday, a small, uncomfortable and unglamorous hot hatch just doesn t quite cut it. Jack of all trades, master of none. The more grown-up me now wants a more user friendly, more passenger-friendly ride. A stylish sedan with some turn of speed, perhaps, like a Mercedes-Benz C 250 AMG Line. Maybe next year ANTHONY LIM Choices abound yet again for my top five list, though the number to whittle down is far less than it was last year. Enough again to make it a full double-digit run though; for the curious, notable omissions include the rather mental Mercedes-AMG E 63 S and scrumptious A 45 in its new facelifted form. The Honda NSX also failed to make the cut in the end I know there s much promise, but I have the feeling that it might be a bit too measured. Sadly, too little time to find out just how much passion lies underneath. And so, we re left with the five here, a motley crew consisting of an electric, a hybrid, a sports car, a driver-oriented hatchback and an SUV. On a side note, I m chuffed that some of the guys have given the Mercedes-AMG GT S one of my picks last year the accolade it so richly deserves. I d dance with that devil, anywhere, any day. 5. Tesla Model S 85 You re either a big fan of the exterior looks or you re not (I m okay with it), but the real magic is what s tucked beneath all that sheet metal. There s a lot of appeal with this one, and it s not just about the burst of speed when you prod the accelerator. Fast it is, but the real intrinsic allure goes beyond that. The ride has a good level of refinement, and the quietness is exemplary. Add to that an eminently achievable 400 km or so range and you have all the makings of a wonderful, green daily driver. The poor rear seating and odd trim here and there takes away some of the gloss, but not the technical achievement, which is first rate. Shame it won t be available to a wider audience here. 4. W212 Mercedes-Benz E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid Fuel economy challenges are always good fun, even if there s more than a modicum of insanity in them. The one involving the E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid was probably the zaniest I ve ever been in. Paired with Chris, who was with a different publication then, the three days of being in the car made for an adventure worth writing about. As a hybrid, it s not perfect that battery is only good to assist the car to run electrically at very light throttle, but the oil burner works a charm, and to get 1,500 km on a single tank as we did on that run was quite the achievement. 3. Ferrari 488 GTB Purists may dismiss this one and look longingly at the 458 Italia, lamenting the loss, but this is the way forward, and a very appealing one at that. Wide-ranging drivability, insanely quick, eminently adjustable to input, the 488 GTB is a wonderful all-rounder. Sure, that soundtrack is muted in comparison to that before it, and that exterior can be accused of playing it a bit too straight and safe, but the mechanicals are brilliant and the dynamic sense, impressive. You need to drive it hard before the magic appears, but it s stunning when arrives. Did I say it was insanely quick? Oh yes, I did. 2. C346 Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBoost facelift Finally, the C346 facelift brings to life what should have been from the start a great handling hatchback paired with a powertrain and drivetrain combination it deserves. The third-generation Focus is by no means as ground-breaking or emotionally engaging as the C170 Mk 1 was, but it s still a very good car to drive. Nothing quite wrong with the outgoing pre-facelift dynamically, and that 2.0 litre Duratec Ti-VCT NA motor, despite needing some prodding to hustle the car along, is a thoroughly competent offering. The main letdown has been the Getrag 6DCT250 six-speed dry dual-clutch PowerShift transmission, the less of which is said, the better. Going the blown route with the 1.5 litre EcoBoost 15 and a conventional six-speed torque converter automatic transforms the Focus. The SelectShift 6F35 gearbox may not be the brightest and newest, but it s a world away from that now. Revisions and enhancements in the areas of steering, NVH and ride/handling do their bit too. Intrinsically smoother, peppier off the mark, and much tauter, all at one go. 1. Land Rover Discovery Sport Not so much the vehicle as it was the location and timing Iceland in the thick of winter made for unquestionably the best driving experience of the year for me. Snowstorms, wind, blizzards that reduced visibility to non-existent levels and black ice were part of the parcel, but so were picturesque landscapes and some great routes. All this, in a day. Ah, what was the car again? Oh yes, the Discovery Sport. It s a bit boxy looking upon first measure, not quite as visually stimulating as its Evoque cousin, but the looks grow on you, and I quite liked the interior of the five-seat example from the get-go. As for the driving, the SUV reveled in all that slush and blustery conditions, going about the task with no fuss whatsoever. While not indestructible, as the snow showed in three occasions when we went off the road into slush due to driver error, it accomplished everything else in quiet, understated fashion. Sure, you could argue that the drive would have been as much fun in a Lada, but maybe I wouldn t be writing about the experience here if it were the case. DANNY TAN Unlike last year, there s no common theme for my 2015 favourites, which range from a 27-year old machine from four generations ago to a modern sports car with a virtual cockpit. They are the bright sparks of what was otherwise a relatively mundane year of cars for yours truly scroll up for M, AMG or the NSX that didn t make the cut but it shows that there are more to savour in cars than just horsepower or cornering ability, fun as those things are. I can imagine living with each of my top five, and they would fit right in no one-night-stand kinds here. 5. Honda HR-V It just struck me that I ve driven more SUVs in the past one and a half year than the rest of the years in this job combined, despite our team s rotation system such is the popularity of the raised hatchbacks as today s urban machine of choice. The softroader is of course not a new concept, but the Honda HR-V can claim to be groundbreaking. It wasn t the first B-segment hatch-based SUV to reach our sunny shores, but it did take the market by storm. It has brand power, but the HR-V is also a good product that punches above its weight. Easy to drive, smooth and refined, a unique cockpit, and interior packaging that trumps rivals from a class above are strong points. Familiarity hasn t helped with the looks, but this is a winning package. 4. Audi TT 2.0 TFSI It s here for that interior. Pretty much the closest thing to love at first sight when it comes to car cabins, the third-gen Audi TT fulfils my fetish for minimalist interiors. After losing its way for the Mk2, this TT dashboard is as impactful as the original car s trendsetting cabin, for me at least. Fresh thinking sees the AC controls incorporated in the cool turbine vents, leaving just one row of buttons on the stark, but functional centre stack. No jutting central screen to spoil aesthetics too all you see is presented on a 12.3-inch virtual cockpit , which unfortunately has no local navi to show off its true potential. That skull of a steering wheel, the quality I could go on, but the car itself isn t half bad. Explosive real world acceleration, a brutally efficient gearbox and an iconic shape has got me dreaming. 3. F48 BMW X1 Compact SUVs are all the rage these days, but BMW didn t jump on the bandwagon it helped create the premium sub-segment with the original X1 back in 2009. It may have been the pioneer, but recreating the E84 won t do in 2015. Which is why today s second-gen X1 is as all-new as it gets. Sitting on a fresh FWD platform (xDrive available), the X1 ditches the gawky wagon shape of old for a more robust, handsome appearance. It s a better SUV too, being more spacious and practical than before, with higher quality finishing. All the above is enough to propel the X1 back to the top of the class of 2015, but the clincher is that the junior SAV is still better to drive than its rivals, front-wheel drive or not. 2. B9 Audi A4 Plenty of time for dreams and ideals when you re young but most enthusiasts will eventually fall into the grasp of reality. Suddenly, the thought of a luxury express (automatic, of course) that will ferry me from A to B with minimum fuss doesn t seem so impure anymore. None will do that as well as the B9 Audi A4, I reckon. The most slippery car in its class is also very comfortable and efficient. The 252 hp 2.0 TFSI quattro I sampled does the century sprint in just 5.8 seconds, but has the legs and refinement for the long haul. Dynamically improved, too. A major part of the B9 s appeal is its new cabin. A slim fit version of the Q7 s dash with elements shared with the pricey SUV, the A4 s cockpit is minimalist and warm (or technical, depending on trim) at the same time, layered with top notch quality. Smooth operator in a sharp suit. 1. E30 BMW 320is Life was simpler back in the day, and so were cars. No twin-turbos and torque vectoring in this E30 BMW 320is, just raw mechanical delight and an accurate transcription of the road to your body. This Italian M3 is a rare car only 2,540 coupes were made for Italy and Portugal, markets that imposed lower taxes on engines below two litres in size. The M3 s 2.3L S14 engine had its stroke shortened to make 1,990 cc, and the 192 hp/210 Nm four-pot is paired to the M3 s close-ratio five-speed manual. This four-pot loves high revs, and the buzz from the final dash to 7,000 rpm got me high as well. The steering is slow by modern standards, and the suspension more liberal, but it allows you to flow with the car as it flows down the road. With that pearl of an engine and a stick shift, the experience was assolutamente fantastico! References ^ 2012 (paultan.org) ^ 2013 (paultan.org) ^ 2014 (paultan.org) ^ E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid s media drive event (paultan.org) ^ 1,500 km journey (paultan.org) ^ BMW 220i (paultan.org) ^ 2014 s top five picks of the year (paultan.org) ^ Nissan Teana (paultan.org) ^ mid-spec 2.0 XL (paultan.org) ^ Mercedes-AMG E 63 S (paultan.org) ^ AMG GT S (paultan.org)